12mens_bracketWest

The CBT Bracket Breakdown: West Region

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See the rest of our regional breakdowns here.

Final Four Favorite: No. 1 Michigan State: Here’s a crazy stat for you: Tom Izzo has had a No. 1 seed in East Lansing three times in his career — 1999, 2000 and 2001. Thats right. This is the first time in 11 years that Izzo had has a No. 1 seed. There’s a reason that everyone talks about him as the best tournament coach in the country. What I like about the Spartans this season is that they are the perfect team for the style he likes to play. They defend, they rebound and they are led by the player with the bluest collar in the country in Draymond Green. Losing Branden Dawson hurts, but they still won the Big Ten Tournament without him.

And if they lose…?: No. 2 Missouri: The Tigers were sensational all season long because of how difficult it is to matchup with them with Kim English at the four. That is going to make them a tough team to prepare for. The Tigers also have arguably the best perimeter attack in the country, led by Phil Pressey, Michael Dixon and Marcus Denmon. The one issue I see is that the teams in Missouri’s way actually match up with them fairly well — Florida and Marquette are both just as versatile.

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Sweet 16 sleeper (9 or lower): No. 12 Long Beach State: LBSU has one of the best point guards in the country at any level in Casper Ware. He’s going to be an NBA player. Mark it down now. And he’s not alone — TJ Robinson is a double-double machine, James Ennis is a terrific athlete and Michael Caffey is going to be a great player in the Big West. The question for LBSU is going to be whether or not Larry Anderson is healthy. He’s their best defender.

Final Four sleeper (5 or lower): No. 8 Memphis: I’m a bit upset with the fact that Memphis got an eight seed. Not because it wasn’t deserved — hey, you want a better seed, then win more games — but because the Tigers are playing some great basketball right now. Will Barton is an all-american, Wesley Witherspoon is finally playing hard and Joe Jackson looks like the Joe Jackson we all expected from day one. The problem? They have a date with Michigan State scheduled in the round of 32.

source: AP

Player to watch (top 8 seeds): Isaiah Canaan, Murray State: If you haven’t seen Canaan play, you are doing yourself a disservice. He can flat out score, and while he’s not on the level of Jimmer, he’s close. He’s one of the best shooters in the country and he’s not opposed to firing away from 25 feet off the dribble. When he’s hot, watch out.

Player to watch (bottom 8 seeds): Scott Machado, Iona: I don’t think that Iona was deserving of getting into the tournament, but the fact that they did is not a bad thing. They can score with any team in the country, and it’s because they have Machado running the show. He’s up there with Kendall Marshall when it comes to players that are worth watching because of their ability to pass the ball.

Best potential matchup: No. 2 Missouri vs. No. 3 Marquette: I can’t stress how much fun this matchup would be. Marquette is one of the few teams in the country that is as versatile as Missouri. The Tigers would be in big trouble if this matchup comes to fruition because Jaw Crowder is big enough to take advantage of the matchup with Kim English inside but athletic enough to stay with him on the perimeter. Both teams play pressuring defense and can get out and run the floor. Marcus Denmon and Darius Johnson-Odom are two of the best two-guards in the country.

So who is getting upset?:

– New Mexico is capable of beating Michigan State. They can really defend and they have a number of shooters on the perimeter. I didn’t have space to write about the Lobos here, but they are really, really good.

– I think Florida can knock off Missouri in the second round. Both have terrific guards and play a similar style offensively. Also, Florida is perfectly comfortable putting Brad Beal at the four and putting a lineup on the floor that is similar to Missouri’s.

– The pod Murray State is playing in is in Louisville. Can the Racers and Isaiah Canaan get to the Sweet 16? Can they beat Marquette?

Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.

Villanova beats Duke, Kansas, Indiana for Jermaine Samuels

Atlanta, GA - MAY 27: Nike EYBL. Session 4. Jermaine Samuels, Jr. #23 of Expressions Elite dunks. (Photo by Jon Lopez)
Jon Lopez/Nike
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Villanova landed a commitment from top 50 prospect Jermaine Samuels on Saturday.

Samuels is a tough and athletic 6-foot-5 wing that will remind many Wildcat fans of Josh Hart. He’s got the same kind of versatility and nose for the ball that will let him guard perimeter players as well as work in as a small-ball four. Players like this are a specialty of Jay Wright.

Samuels picked up an offer from Duke recently and also had Indiana, Kansas and Georgetown in his top five. Beating out blue-bloods for a prospect like this is quite the statement for Villanova, one that should tell you the reigning national champs are here to stay as a national power.

Syracuse lands critical piece in Andrew White

LINCOLN, NE - FEBRUARY 3: Andrew White #3 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers shoots the ball over Rasheed Sulaimon #0 of the Maryland Terrapins during their game at Pinnacle Bank Arena on February 3, 2016 in Omaha, Nebraska. (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty Images)
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Syracuse has found their replacement for Malachi Richardson.

On Sunday, Nebraska transfer Andrew White committed to the Orange, picking Syracuse, in the end, over VCU. White is a graduate transfer who spent last season with Nebraska, where he averaged 16.2 points while shooting 41.2 percent from three. A top 50 prospect out of Virginia back in the Class of 2012, White played a limited role for Kansas his first two seasons in college.

This is a significant pickup for the Orange, one that legitimately puts them into the conversation as a Final Four contender and a threat to finish at or near the top of the ACC. Jim Boeheim has put together a roster full of talented, long and athletic front court players, but after Richardson declared for the NBA Draft as a one-and-done freshman, he was left with just two back court players on his roster.

Earlier this offseason, Cuse landed Colorado State grad transfer John Gillon, a 6-foot-1 combo-guard, to reinforce their back court. The addition of White gives them a lights-out shooter and a big-time scorer on the wing, something that would have been a major void on their roster.

With Paschal Chukwu getting eligible at the center spot and Tyler Lydon likely landing on every breakout player list this preseason, the Orange should be a markedly better team than the one that made their way to the Final Four last season.

Arizona lands first commitment in 2017 class

Alex Barcello (Jon Lopez/Nike)
(Jon Lopez/Nike)
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Arizona landed their first commitment in the Class of 2017 on Friday night as point guard Alex Barcello pledged to Sean Miller and the Wildcats.

Barcello is a 6-foot-2 point guard from Tempe who plays his high school ball for Corona del Sol. He committed to the Wildcats on an official visit to the Tucson campus.

Barcello is a borderline top 100 prospect who sits at No. 123 in the Rivals top 150. He’s known for his ability to shoot, and he’s more of a combo-guard — i.e. shoot-first — than a point guard at times, but he’s a nice pickup and projects as a solid four-year player for the Wildcats.

Virginia, Indiana, Stanford and Butler were the other four schools on Barcello’s list.

Duke lands first commitment in 2017 class

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Alex O’Connell knew exactly where he wanted to play his college ball, which is why, just two days after picking up an offer from Coach K and the Blue Devils, he became Duke’s first recruit in the Class of 2017.

O’Connell announced the on twitter on Friday afternoon:

O’Connell is a four-star prospect from Georgia that had a terrific summer, going from being a borderline top 75 prospect to a player that caught the interest of Duke, who, along with Kentucky, sit atop the college recruiting hierarchy. He’s an explosively athletic and lanky 6-foot-6 wing with three-point range on his jumper. He needs to add some weight and some strength — he’s listed as a crisp 175 pounds — but he has the tools, and the swagger, to develop into a very effective player in the ACC.

Is he a one-and-done prospect?

Probably not. In fact, since 2010, Duke has landed just two players that were rated lower than O’Connell: Antonio Vrankovic and Jack White. If you know who both of them are, you’re probably either Jon Scheyer or lying.

But what O’Connell is is a kid who put in the work to get better this past year and who has the skill set, the physical tools and work ethic to continue to improve. He may not be on Grayson Allen’s trajectory, but O’Connell has the makings of being an impact player for the Blue Devils for three or four years.

Alex O'Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)
Alex O’Connell (Jon Lopez/Nike)

Shaka Smart lands contract extension at Texas

Texas head coach Shaka Smart instructs his team in the first half of an NCAA college basketball game against Baylor on Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, in Waco, Texas. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)
AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Shaka Smart has already landed himself a contract extension at Texas.

The school, according to the Austin American-Statesman, has given Shaka a one-year extension — through the 2022-23 season — and bumped his salary up to a cool $3 million, a raise of $100,000 annually.

Smart’s Longhorns went 20-13 last season and lost on a half court buzzer beater from Northern Iowa’s Paul Jespersen. It will be tough for Smart to match the success that he had last season, specifically because he lost senior point guard Isaiah Taylor to the professional ranks.

That said, the former VCU head man has been reeling in quite a bit of talent from the state of Texas — namely, Andrew Jones and Jarrett Allen — and is not all that far from turning the Longhorns back into a relevant member of the Big 12 title race.